What Does A 'Smart Scottsdale' Look Like? City Wants Your Input

By Mark Brodie
Published: Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - 3:04pm
Updated: Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - 3:33pm

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MARK BRODIE: Scottsdale tonight wants to hear from residents about the city's efforts to become a "smart city." Scottsdale is creating a roadmap for doing that, which should be done next February or March, though many of the other efforts will be longer term than that. Brent Stockwell is an assistant city manager for the city of Scottsdale. He joins me to talk more about this. And Brent, what to you does a smart city look like, and, maybe more to the point, what would a smart Scottsdale look like?

BRENT STOCKWELL: Well, a smart city is a city that combines your traditional infrastructure like roads and buildings with technology. So that gives data that can be used to enrich people's lives. So in Scottsdale in particular, that's going to be looking at all of the traditional infrastructure that we have — from roads and buildings and parks — and then how technology can be integrated with that to give us more information that can improve the interface between the infrastructure and the technology to help Scottsdale residents live better lives. Our paramount goal in this effort is to improve quality of life of people in Scottsdale. And we do recognize to do that, you have to be aware of confidentiality, privacy and security issues. So the city is working hard to manage the privacy rights, the needs of the city for the data driven insights from the information and the responsibility of any vendors that we partner with as well.

BRODIE: What kinds of information, ideally, do you think the city might benefit from having?

STOCKWELL: Well, we focused on information in a variety of different areas from mobility, how people get around Scottsdale to security, also in the areas of energy efficiency of our buildings and our street lighting systems, water use, our trash and recycling programs. But then beyond that, also to economic development and what kind of businesses do people want in Scottsdale? What kind of information do those businesses need to run effectively in Scottsdale? And then also ending up with how do people want to engage with the city of Scottsdale? How do they want to share information? What kind of applications might they want to have? What kind of digital citizen services might they want to connect with the city?

Scottsdale City Hall
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Scottsdale City Hall.

BRODIE: Well, so some of that information, I wonder if the city already has — things like water usage and sewer usage and trash pickup, things like that. Doesn't doesn't it already have at least some amount of information on those services?

STOCKWELL: We do. As a matter of fact, we got recognized in April as being an American city best at using data to improve residents' lives. So we received silver certification from What Works Cities, and we were recognized for adopting a business mindset to running a well managed city. So in doing that, they already kind of singled out some smart city type efforts that we have, like using predictive analytics to identify future water needs more accurately. And the smart meters that we're installing and then how we use information from chat traffic signals to try and improve our reaction to future accidents.

BRODIE: When you look at areas like economic development, which you mentioned, I'm curious how you go about trying to collect that data. That seems to be sort of a different kind of data collection than, for example, you know, putting a smart meter on a building to see how much water you're using.

STOCKWELL: Sure. And I think those are primarily about the interactions between the business community and the city, such as digital big business licensing and permitting and digital land use and building permit, which we're doing some of that. And then also open databases and open geographic information systems, which is also something that we've been working toward and doing since the mid 2010s. But really, this effort is about how do we coordinate all this together and how do we get kind of a framework for understanding what things our citizens do want us to do and what things they don't want us to do.

BRODIE: Are there other cities either here in Arizona or elsewhere around the country that you see as maybe a model for what Scottsdale can and should do?

STOCKWELL: I don't know as a model per se, but we definitely want to learn from the efforts of other communities that have come before us. The company that's helping us is Think Big Partners. There are a 10 year old firm that's based in Kansas City, Missouri. And they actually helped with the original smart city master plan for the Kansas City smart and connected city project. So there's certainly some elements of that that we want to learn and grow from. Las Vegas, on the other hand, is pretty much kind of have a allowing the free market to have a reign in their downtown and pilot testing tons of different things. What we're trying to do is kind of a more moderated, intelligent approach to doing this, where we really think about kind of the whole gamut of possibilities and really kind of focus in on what might work and what wouldn't work, what solutions our citizens aren't even interested in all.

BRODIE: Is there any benefit for a city like Scottsdale to be maybe taking into account what some of its neighbors are doing? Obviously, this is a very large metropolitan area, and a lot of people work and live and hang out in different cities from each other. So I'm wondering if Scottsdale is looking at trying to incorporate Tempe or Phoenix or other Valley cities in this effort as well.

STOCKWELL: Yeah. So not only are we wanting to learn from other cities — and as a matter of fact, Think Big Partners worked with the city of Mesa to develop their plan before they've been helping us with ours. But our city council approved in November Scottsdale's participation in the Connective Smart Region Consortium, which includes more than 30 communities in our region and also is being done in partnership with Arizona State University and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and the Maricopa Association of Governments. So that was just all kicked off last month. We're participating fully in those efforts, and we're also working with ASU's Smart City Cloud Innovation Center that's based at Sky Song, the ASU Scottsdale Center for Innovation on projects. And I know other cities are working on those together, so we're definitely wanting to learn from each other.

BRODIE: All right. That is Brent Stockwell, an assistant city manager with the city of Scottsdale. Brent, thanks for your time. I appreciate it.

STOCKWELL: Thank you.

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